Bradley Manning Sentenced to 35 Years for Historic Leak of U.S. Secrets

The punishment may be a harbinger of what fellow leaker Edward Snowden could face

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UPDATED Aug. 21 at 1:41 p.m.

Bradley Manning, the Army private responsible for the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history, was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday by a military judge.

The sentence was considerably less than the lifetime sentence Manning faced under the original charges brought by the government, including aiding the enemy, for which he was acquitted. It was also nearly half of the 60 years recommended by the prosecutors after he was convicted in July of leaking information and six violations of the Espionage Act. Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, had previously suggested that Manning face only 25 years in prison, given that the information he leaked would likely be declassified after that time.

Manning, 25, was dishonorably discharged and had his rank reduced to private and his pay forfeited. He will get credit for three and a half years already served in prison. If he serves his entire term, he would be a free man at the age of 58, but under military rules he could become eligible for parole after serving one third of his sentence. He has admitted to leaking roughly 700,000 military and diplomatic documents, including classified video of a helicopter attack in Iraq that killed two civilians, including a photographer for Reuters.

(MOREField of Dishonor: Famous American Court-Martials)

Hours after the verdict was read, Coombs told reporters that he would pursue through the Army chain of command a presidential pardon of Manning, or a commutation of his sentence to time served. Neither outcome is likely. “We’re a nation of laws,” President Obama said in 2011, when asked about Manning. “We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.”

For much of the Manning trial, the only suspense was the length of the sentence Manning would face. In the opening rounds, Manning had pled guilty to the basic facts of the case. The issues debated over a three month trial focused on his motivations, the degree of malice he held for his country, and the harm the leaks did to U.S. interests. Prosecutors portrayed him as an anarchist who took pleasure in harming the United States. Manning’s defense portrayed him as a whistleblower driven to expose misdeeds by the U.S. government, and they noted that he suffered from psychological problems brought on by his own gender identity issues and the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. A picture of Manning in a wig and lipstick was presented as evidence of his feelings that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body.

The sentence may be a harbinger of the punishment National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden will face if he is captured by U.S. authorities. Snowden, who has taken refuge in Russia, has admitted to the theft and release of a vast trove of information that was far more highly classified than the Manning documents. The U.S. Department of Justice has said it will not seek the death penalty against Snowden, but there is little doubt that the government seeks to use his punishment to discourage future leakers.

In the sentencing phase of the trial on Aug. 14, Manning had addressed the court directly, repeatedly apologizing for his actions. “At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing, and they are continuing to affect me,” he said. “Although they have caused me considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions. I understood what I was doing and the decisions I made.”

(MOREThe Hollowness of Bradley Manning)

He continued by saying that he now renounced many of the idealistic notions he held at the time of his leak. “I look back at my decisions and wonder how on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better on decisions of those with the proper authority,” he said. “In retrospect I should have worked more aggressively inside the system.”

Manning also told the court that after his sentence he hoped to have time to go to college, “to be a better person,” and to have a meaningful relationship with his sister and her family. Given the length of his sentence and his young age, both remain possible.

MOREBradley Manning and Our Real Secrecy Problem

32 comments
BiggerFatterPol
BiggerFatterPol

Cheney outs Valarie Plame, lies us into a war so that he can make obscene profits and Manning gets the book thrown at him. Ahhh... American justice.

Capnscoobing
Capnscoobing

I think the punishment was lax. He is a criminal, and has committed treason in my eyes. Disagreement with the government's actions does not entitle him to take punishment into his own hands. I do not appreciate his choice of action on my behalf without my consent, and I do not appreciate what he has done to the face of the military on my behalf.

I'd be hard pressed to believe that these leaked documents fully encompass the reasoning behind the United States actions. I wonder to myself what the other countries governments currently have hidden, what other correspondences have gone on between them, how many civilians killed were done so out of malice versus accident, what was intentional, what secret agreements we have with which countries, compiled of what give and take. To me, this seemed to be a guilt trip, selling out the United States. 

I find it difficult to fathom that only the United States has these situations, these incidents. Could it be, we are the face of the devil, we are the front of immoral action? Is our guilt unmet, unequaled, incomparable? Something tells me that the ignorance of the many will see his actions as those of a Hero, rather than the actions of a villain. The American public will be appalled, ashamed, angered. Why? Blissful ignorance, maybe. Publicly shaming America and putting the government in a tight spot globally seems like it might not be the best idea. Then again, the growing liberal agenda of gumdrops and unicorns seems to be all about tap dancing around tough decisions, because really, we don't want anybody at all to feel any discomfort at all (NOTE: I'm no fat Republican scoffing science, hating the world, and stealing from everyone possible, either). 

I'm probably just a morally corrupt citizen, but I'll reserve my judgment of the government on this. I have a feeling that the amount leaked is just a tiny piece of the workings of the world, and our governments role in it. Since I know I don't have all the facts, and I know I never will, I'm going to just walk away from this one. No need to start a revolution to overthrow the government based on a small percentage of selectively leaked documents, even if the do make me feel bad.


SteveJ
SteveJ

"Historic leak" of U.S. secrets?  Are you serious?  In terms of number of pages I suppose.  We live in the era of downloading.

But I'm still waiting for prosecutors show show damage -- unless you want to call the embarrassment of some high-level bureaucrats damage.  Looks like one of the more benign leaks in the history of the country.

AaronMeltzer
AaronMeltzer

There are two differences to consider. The first is that Manning is in the military and therefore he faced a military trial. The second is the information leaked by Manning had an immediate affect on people on the field and in sensitive positions. Snowden's sin was that he didn't go to the proper people in Congress first and though much of his information published to date was previously known( Sixty Minutes actually did a segment on the building and their ability to tap phones) much of the public was surprised at the intrusions into the average citizens private life.

MichaelSweden
MichaelSweden

When the RAND-analyst Daniel Ellsberg gave the information in the so called Pentagon papers to different newspapers, they were threatened to be prosecuted under the espionage act. He was never sentenced. Ellsberg probably saved both american's soldiers lives but also countless Vietnamese in the fruitless and pointless war with Vietnam. That cost 4 million lives.

Bradley Manning fared worse so did the first amendment right of freedom of expression. The door is open for new US invasions of foreign countries based on flaky evidence. What is next?

nickojul
nickojul

Manning broke the law simple. All the talk about being a heron is unwarranted. He failed to abide by the terms of his job, he recklessly damaged the reputation and image of a great nation like the USA among its allies. He is no hero, yes there were some issues that were bad, but to take the law into his own hands and be a judge is totally reckless and abysmal. The harsh sentence should serve as a strong deterrent from would be MANNINGS and SNOWDENS. Let the government do the job they were elected for. Manning was not. PERIOD.

neko.el.gato
neko.el.gato

I'll bet the folks at Time are celebrating.

internetfavs
internetfavs

its a shame! The guy is a hero.

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MichaelSweden
MichaelSweden

35 years for that. Come on! Ludicrous. He did a service to the demos, you forgot that, the people should run the country, not the military, working  in the dark on everything, stamping hundreds of millions of documents as secret. They are unaccountable. No that is not OK.

When the civil servants are running things, concealed from the scrutiny of the politicians and especially from the voters, then the democracy literally should be called a bureaucracy. In the German sociologist Max Weber's sense of the word.

A democracy we call a system of power where you can get rid of the rulers without using force, for example by general elections. But in a bureaucracy you can not vote away anybody.

The winners are the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA.

FuzzyPotato
FuzzyPotato

This is what you get for screwing around with classified material. There is an important distinction that needs to be made that a lot of people are (in some cases, conveniently) forgetting: he didn't whistleblow. He didn't go to his chaplain or his chain of command and follow procedure. He "took matters in his own hands" (because that's never a recipe for disaster.)  There are rules and procedures to be followed, and only if it didn't work could he remotely have the chance to do what he did.  But he didn't bother to try - and he got (via a fair trial, I may add) punished for it.

Was the sentence excessive? In my opinion, yes. Did he bring to light important matters that would have been buried? Yes. But was he a whistleblower? No.  Is he a hero?  Definitely not.

ToddGilbert
ToddGilbert

That's sad. He exposed wrong doing by the government while criminal bankers that caused the financial downfall get no prosecution

JTinVA
JTinVA

DanBruce, not sure that's how punishment works. In itself, jail time only has purpose as an example or deterrent against other leakers. 

What's the average worth of a productive person's adult life? What's the worth of impact on a nation's reputation and potential security threats?

How much can punishing one person really do? What do you actually do to "fix" the situation? What, really, is the issue at hand?

Right now, I'm left with a lot of questions. Maybe we can focus on answering some of the deeper questions rather than just commenting on the tip of the issue?

azmalhome
azmalhome

 If you express the truth People detest you. If you express the inaccurate People scold for that you heavily.But when you’re performing best steps Then worse people will toil to putting you at terminating, If they are unable to do it After that they begin to conspire against you until pass away. http://azmalhome.wordpress.com/

j45ashton
j45ashton

You've got to expect some bullet-headed, hard-ass comments here.  But an important part of what Manning did was good.  It showed the innocent civilian suffering going on due to poor military judgments & mistakes.  The same kind of stuff hidden from the public by the administration during Vietnam in order to keep war support undiminished.  Big government self-serving manipulations.  But Manning also released too much that was unreasonably damaging.  The names of covert agents should have never been released.  That was reckless.

matthewloop
matthewloop

I keep thinking to myself. "Is this America?" ... Committing war crimes gets you a presidential library. Reporting them gets you prison time.

Manning exposed the misdeeds of the gov. He is a hero. Liberty and freedom have taken another major blow today. The gov is out of control.

applefellup
applefellup

Send scented soap and KY lube c/o Bradley Manning @The Brig.

JuanViche
JuanViche

Only in Amerikkka

Wanta! Black Swan, White Hat -

How the US Government Stole $23 Trillion from the American People

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_AZRKDabXz6a01fUWlIdE9XSW8&usp=sharing (download pdf, podcast interviews, video interview plus more here)

http://tekgnosis.typepad.com/tekgnosis/2013/08/wanta-black-swan-white-hat-for-immediate-release.html

First time video interview with Lee Wanta

http://tekgnosis.typepad.com/tekgnosis/2013/08/ambassador-lee-wanta-video-interview-plus-more.html

DanBruce
DanBruce

Life would have been a better sentence for the crimes he admitted to committing. We will all have to mark our calendar and remember to protest his early release on parole twelve years from now. He needs 35 years at the least to pay for the damage he did. Maybe when he gets out he can go join Snowden in Russia.

nickojul
nickojul

@MichaelSweden  

The whole Vietnam saga is appalling the way  the american public lost the stomach to fight and stand up for a cause they believe in. If America were Russia during WWII would the public stomach such embarrassing loss of lives. The men that fought that war were jeered and booed what a pity. Fore Uncle Ho he was willing to commit as much lives to a cause he believes in. The question is what do you believe. You believe in a country were by people take the laws into their hands and steal classified information and expose such to the ridicule of a great nation. I pity.

harte.ryan
harte.ryan

@nickojul If you honestly believe the USA is a "great nation" then your more naive than you sound

AlecZammit
AlecZammit

@nickojul you are a very sad person. 
Live your life of lies somewhere else you brain dead sheep. 

downpour
downpour

It wasn't Manning who destroyed the last remnants of America's reputation. It was the guys who joked like little kids and made racist slurrs as they murdered clearly unarmed civilians and worked themselves up into a frenzy. Then subsequently the way the government abused its power to go after anyone brave enough to reveal the atrocities, coverups and corruption that are clearly in the public interest.

Western government are supposed to be servants of the people, they do not rule over us, we rule over them. They have abused their position and they are the ones who should be facing charges. The law is not just a tool that the government can use to get what it wants.

What the hell happened to freedom, liberty and justice America? You seem to have turned into North Korea.

DanBruce
DanBruce

@JTinVA People lose sight of the fact that Manning (and Snowden and those who helped them) decided to abridge the Constitutional right of every citizen of the United States to elect those who are sworn to safeguard them. Nullifying people's vote is a serious crime. Manning did just that by deciding on his own what is important for your and my security, and he wasn't qualified to do so. No one voted for him or Snowden or those who helped them. They seized power on their own authority. Representative government cannot work that way, and the resulting chaos is what those like Manning and Snowden and those who helped them seem to want. Had I been the judge, I would have given Manning life, or possibly the death penalty if is was shown that people lost their lives because of his reckless release of information to people who do not have the best interest of the United States in mind.

MichaelSweden
MichaelSweden

@nickojul @MichaelSweden You should get your facts straight, Vietnam was a civil war, had nothing to do with the international spread of communism as the US misconstrued it to be. Also, we know for a fact today that USA faked it being attacked by Vietnam. It launched an unprovoked invasion against another country which is against international law. American shaky understanding of foreign cultures cost 4 million lives. The same happened before the Iraq war, contrary to what myth has it, it was well known beforehand that Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction at the time (2003). This time USA caused the death of a million lives. Bradley Manning released information had it not been known to the public the war would have lasted longer costing more lives. Also, the military has spun out of control overusing the classified stamp in order to cover up their own blunders.

JTinVA
JTinVA

@DanBruce @JTinVA Thanks for clarifying your position and I mean that. Strong opinions are one thing but there's just so many posts of(what amounts to) unqualified hate speech that no one really gains anything.

To me, it was just difficult reconciling the idea of punishment on incidents with so much potential effect. He's guilty, but nothing that can be done to one person that can make it right. But there's a lot other things too, from information security, psych oversight on soldiers within the military, etc etc that contributed to this. So what happens now? The story can't just end right?

DanBruce
DanBruce

@JTinVA @DanBruce Manning will serve his term (hopefully, all of it), damage from his disclosures will continue, people who helped the U.S. and were exposed may die (some no doubt already have), the inquiries by Congress will proceed and adjustments will be made to ensure better oversight, terrorist will continue to plot against America (exploiting any advantage the uproar about NSA surveillance may have given them), and all sorts of things we can't imagine. So, even though the Manning part is over, the checks and balances of our government will continue to operate. 

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